“The Stranger” by Albert Camus
Albert Camus’s The Stranger is an existentialist piece of literature written in France. The scenario put forth in the book would have been comedic if not for the seriousness and brevity of Camus’s presentation. The protagonist named Meursault finds himself in a quick succession of events, at his mother’s deathbed, vacationing with friends and awaiting execution. The story highlights the absurdity of the human world, where a man’s life can be taken for no other reason than drinking coffee at his mother’s funeral. He never truly committed a crime. He just fired in self-defense.
It is because humans are so prone to find faults in others that his crime becomes something in gravity. Camus deals with how a person should react to such a ridiculous scenario in which the answer is he should not and when life is already out of control, there is nothing to do but to watch it go by. Smoothly and perfectly the book embodies a spirit of reckless abandon. The narrator cares about his life and his friends and everything in it, but sometimes faced with the impossible and resigns to his fate. Mention of the murder of the Czechoslovakian man is found in Chapter Two of the story.
Though Meursault think that his trial is quite delaying, it actually happens so quickly because he is already sentenced to death. But while he counts the days to his execution, he finds an ideal past time reading and rereading an old newspaper he found in his cell. The newspaper clipping is about a Czechoslovakian man who left home and made a fortune. He wanted to surprise his family in his return so he rented a room at his mother’s hotel, showing off all his money. Unknowing of the man’s identity, his mother robbed him in the middle of the night and beat him to death. But when she learned that the man was her son, she hung herself.
And when the man’s sister heard about this, she threw herself off a cliff. (“The Stranger…” 2) Though that part of the story seems to have no relation at all to the whole narrative, it interests the reader as to why it is included and how it is related to Meursault’s own trial. To delve deeper, this behavior of Meursault is an evidence of despite his lack of emotions and insensitivity, he is actually very conscious of what happens to him and around him. For Meursault, loneliness is a good company and it gives him time to contemplate. He is able to think about the all the good times in life, perhaps the happiest was spent with Marie.
Since his main problem is killing time, while in prison he learns to concentrate on remembering every item and detail of his room at his home. He is able to make a catalog and it becomes a habit. He is soon able to learn how to sleep in prison at least two thirds of the day. Part of that time he kills by rereading the Czech newspaper crime article. It relates to his own murder case as it convinces him that it is never a good idea to play games, as in the game of surprises as the Czech man. He should not let his emotions overcome him as the Czech man let his, so the tragic end occurred.
Perhaps, by reading it, he could have ended his life by suicide, as what the mother and the Czech man’s sister did. Yet the articles helps him in the positive way that he is able to realize the value of time, freedom and the value of life inside his prison cell, and the reading of the article takes him back to his human emotional state and consciousness. With these acceptances, Meursault’s lack of freedom is lessened. His daily analysis of his room is an example of his ability to find value in life and possessions which he realized in his stay in prison.
He is able to value the memories he had in the past where he had once ignored. He had just lived solely for one encounter after another, without minding or looking back to appreciate. But by his recollection of the details of his room, and the knowledge he gained in each time, he gains back much of his quality time in life that he wasted. Inside his prison cell, he finds value and creates meaning in a life where he had seen no reason for meaning. The newspaper clipping on the Czechoslovakian tragedy, according to McCarthy, reflects his ability to see the value of examination and the preciousness of life.
Time itself loses its meaning to him because he can no longer function and his action has no place anymore. He lives in his ability to spend time through memory, the Czech crime story, sleep and other ways to kill his boredom. The death of time initiates the birth of Meursault’s self. In chapter two of the book, we see Meursault looking at himself. His introspection discloses the fact that he cannot make himself smile. Looking at his serious facial expression and finally hearing his own voice, he connects his body to his mind in the first true union of his life. This becomes a monumental discovery to Meursault, a mental milestone.
This chapter is important to the reader because it gives a detailed picture of the prison, what Meursault routine in each day of the eleven month period that he is held in jail. At this point of the story, Meursault admits that he prefers to be silent about things rather than disclose them. This means he is uncomfortable talking about the prison and anything connected to it because he has trouble convincing himself that he is actually in prison. He denies the fact by thinking he is still free, that prison is a punishment for his wrongdoing, and that he is deprived of the freedom he is supposed to be enjoying.
(The Sranger 1) Meursault is actually in mental agony. It is only when he receives the letter from Marie that he finally accepts prison as his home, although he is still reluctant to speak about it. His time in prison enables him to finally open his emotions. His experience inside the jail makes him realize the importance of the lessons his mother always teaches him, which perhaps of a greater impact than during her mother’s life. His situation makes him see the present and move on. Meursault’s physical agony is one, his longing to feel Marie’s body against his.
Although their last meeting before the letter has been chaotic and noisy, he realizes Mary’s beauty more than anything else that strikes him and he misses the physical presence. At times he may be ignoring Marie’s gestures but actually he loves observing her. With their distance and the fact that he cannot connect with her as he once had in the sea, keeps him yearn for that physical unity. His connection with Marie has been mostly severed though he yearns for her face and presence. Also, he misses the chores of a freeman – swimming, sex and cigarette.
The urges are still present within him making their denial even harder. He is able to at least for some time forget about them is time and memory. He starts to structure a life standard which he never had before although his situation in jail, living moment to moment is not capable of satisfying his desires. His resort is to fantasize on woman’s face as it works to pass the time and kill his boredom. He slowly learns to live without any physical stimulation besides he is able to create something within his mind. Patrick McCarthy (1988) provides a short summary of Chapter Two.
It is about Meursault realization that his time inside his prison cell is the type of experience he never liked mentioning about. He is put in prison in the company of people mostly Arabs. They behaved when they found out that Meursault’s is there for killing an Arab. After a few days, he was moved to his own cell, in a comfort of a wooden plank to sleep on and the sea breeze on a barred window facing the far off sea. Marie looks beautiful when she comes to visit him. They had a hard time speaking because of the noise from others in the room. She tries to keep him hoping which to him is the hope to touch her again.
He answered only when necessary as she talks about everyday things. He wanted to take advantage of Marie being there lose to him. Finally he is told to leave and she tells him he will be acquitted and they will go swimming and get married, but he responded uncertainly. After this visit, he receives a letter from her cutting her visit because she is not his wife. The story delivers a social significance as one person realizes that prison cell takes away one’s freedom. It teaches a person to value his freedom and everything related to it, even time.
But unlike in most reality that prisoner’s turn to suicidal state to fight guilt and boredom, Meursault’s story teaches us the positive inside the seemingly negative situation he is in. In may be concluded that Meursault is happy enough in prison. His endurance inside the cell without ending his life despite he might be tempted by the newspaper article is a proof that he has take his fate positively. References Camus, Albert. “The Stranger”. (translated by Stuart Gilbert). Random House: New York, 1946. McCarthy, Patrick. Camus “The Stranger”: A Student Guide. Cambridge University Press: UK, 1988 from <http://books. google. com> pp. 37-57.Sample Essay of EduBirdie.com